Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Former State Supreme Court Justice to Hear Groundwater-Permit Case

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Former State Supreme Court Justice to Hear Groundwater-Permit Case

Article excerpt

A former Oklahoma Supreme Court justice will serve as hearing examiner on a case the court returned to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to consider whether use of groundwater by a proposed swine feeding operation may cause "waste by pollution."

Retired Chief Justice Don Barnes will hear the groundwater- permit case of Kronseder Farms, a concentrated hog-feeding facility in Woodward County that may house 142,000 pigs when completed. The permit, issued in October 1996, was opposed by a group of landowners.

It would allow Kronseder to use 2,920 acre-feet of water per year from 27 wells. One-third would be used for animal consumption and to flush manure into retention lagoons. The resulting effluent and fresh groundwater would be spread over 1,760 acres of native grassland. The remainder would be used for irrigation.

In July, the high court said that the water board must review all proposed uses of water by a facility and placed the burden of proving that pollution would not occur on the applicant. The justices said that the board incorrectly limited its review into waste by pollution to the construction and operation of Kronseder's wells and water distribution system. The court also determined that OWRB and the State Department of Agriculture have concurrent environmental jurisdiction over livestock facilities requiring water permits.

OWRB executive director Duane Smith told a legislative panel Wednesday that the board has tabled consideration of 75 pending permits, five of which are for concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

Rep. M.C. Leist, D-Morris, and Sen. Bruce Price, D-Hinton, co- chair the Joint Interim Legislative Committee on Waste by Pollution.

"This is probably one of the most important issues we will deal with this year," said Leist.

Price agreed.

"We've been wrestling with this for years," the senator said. "We will try to get some better lines of control out there than we've had."

Smith said that in Oklahoma groundwater is considered private property that belongs to the overlying surface landowner.

He said that irrigation is the No. 1 use of water in Oklahoma, accounting for 49 percent of total withdrawals and 80 percent of groundwater withdrawals. …

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